T-Mobile and Starlink Satellite Connectivity

Jessica Watkins

In August 2022, T-Mobile and SpaceX made an announcement highlighting their bold plan of expanding cellular connectivity across the United States of America using low-orbit satellites. According to them, the service intends to bring cell service to previously underserved areas such as national parks, deserts, mountain ranges, territorial waters, and all the other uninhabitable places. This breakthrough service aims to provide connectivity to areas that cannot be covered by traditional surface-level cell towers. 

The announcement took the entire space by storm, and many people started drawing their own conclusions about the said tie-up. Owing to the numerous benefits of satellite connectivity, the buzz of this connectivity is valid. 

Here is everything to know about the partnership between the two giants: 

What is the Partnership All About? 

In a nutshell, T-Mobile and SpaceX aim to use low-orbit satellites to improve cellular coverage on the existing 5G smartphones all over the United States of America. As per the carrier, more than half a million square miles of the country don’t get any signal due to several reasons, such as the inability of the carriers to build infrastructure in the protected land or oceans. On the contrary, satellite connectivity makes coverage in these areas possible. 

There are many benefits of satellite connectivity: 

  • You can enjoy consistent internet coverage, regardless of the terrain. 
  • Satellite connectivity of the internet works as a safety net for the users who find themselves traveling through less populated areas. 
  • Satellite connectivity offers high-speed internet. 

Is Satellite Connectivity a New Concept? 

You might look upon satellite connectivity as a new concept. However, it is not. Despite this, the partnership between the two giants is creating buzz. The reason for this hype is that you don’t need a dedicated satellite phone to use the internet connectivity offered by it. The carrier claims that the vast majority of smartphones will be compatible with the service so extended. Thus, you wouldn’t have to buy any extra equipment or devices to reap the benefits offered by the satellite connectivity on T-Mobile. 

How Will This Plan Work? 

Are you wondering how the connectivity will work for the users? 

According to reports, SpaceX will utilize its Starlink satellites to broadcast a new network with the help of T-Mobile’s mid-band spectrum. It will use the 1900MHz spectrum, a part of the carrier’s 4G and 5G networks. The next-generation Starlink satellites are scheduled to launch next year and are likely to boast upgraded antennas designed to pick up signals from small radios. Considering these claims, one must assume the internet connection to be seamless as moving from one ground cell tower to another. 

While this update is making many users excited, it is vital to mention that satellite connectivity will only be offered when you do not have a cell tower nearby. It ensures that the service remains available only to the people who need it, and not otherwise. It is the big selling point for satellite phones at present. This satellite connectivity will offer emergency internet to those living or traveling through remote or underserved areas. 

What Can One Do with the Satellite Connectivity on T-Mobile? 

Going by the press release of T-Mobile, this satellite connectivity will let you send text messages, including SMS and MMS, and access select messaging apps. The company also looks forward to adding voice and data connectivity in the future. That said, the developers of WhatsApp and similar media services may have to optimize their apps to ensure they work with the said network. 

The CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, revealed in a tweet after this launch event that Starlink V2 satellites will reach 2 to 4 Mb/s per cell zone. It would be enough for sending texts and voice calls; however, not much less. The bandwidth will have to be shared by all users in the cell zone. 

There is a drawback! One cannot expect their messages to reach the receiver at once. It may take as long as half an hour for the process to complete. One has to be in full view of the sky as any light obstructions like tree cover or more will add to the delay. 

How Much Does T-Mobile’s Satellite Service Cost? 

Currently, the company hasn’t revealed much about the plans or pricing structure for satellite connectivity. The carrier aims to bundle it for free on T-Mobile’s most popular plans. However, the CEO of the company, Mike Sievert, did not give any firm commitment as yet. In the meantime, users on the lower-cost plans will have to pay an additional monthly fee to utilize the service, but the said fee will be lower than the competition. 

If the existing satellite connectivity options are taken into consideration, it is evident that sky-to-ground data doesn’t come cheap. The inReach subscription plans start at $14.95 for unlimited SOS and only ten text messages. If you want to make the most of this service, expect to pay more than usual. 

Is the Plan Rolling Out? 

It has been a year since the official announcement of this partnership, but no concrete word from either party has been given regarding the date of release. It seems the users may still have to wait for some time to get an update. While the two companies are relatively mum about the release date, a new FCC Filing was rolled out in July to give some insight into their plan. 

According to a few reports, the FCC still needs to approve. Starlink’s VP of satellite policy, David Goldman, sent this letter to the FCC: 

“SpaceX and T-Mobile are poised to bring the massive benefits of ubiquitous coverage to

 millions of American consumers through their supplemental coverage from space partnerships. This partnership will leverage T-Mobile’s exclusive, nationwide PCS G Block spectrum and SpaceX’s next-generation satellite capabilities to extend the reach of T-Mobile’s mobile service to its subscribers wherever they are, including in remote areas that for too long have lacked connectivity. Now that the comment cycle has closed, SpaceX and T-Mobile urge the Commission to follow through with its commitment to process innovative supplemental coverage applications by expeditiously approving SpaceX’s modification application.”

More updates are awaited. 

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